If you have children under the age of 18, it’s a really good idea to choose a legal guardian for them in your will. This guardian should be someone you trust to step in and look after your child properly if both you and their other parent die before they become an adult.

As you might imagine, appointing a guardian for a child needs to be carefully thought through. But don’t worry! We’ve covered all the ins and outs of making a will for guardianship in the UK here.

 

What is a legal guardian?

A legal guardian is a person who has the right – and responsibility – to care for a child when the child’s parents are no longer able to.

Someone with legal guardianship in the UK has all the official duties, responsibilities, powers and authority that a parent would normally have. This means that the person you appoint will make all the decisions about your child’s upbringing that you’d usually make, like:

  • Where they will live
  • Where they’ll go to school
  • What they will eat, wear and do in their spare time
  • Their physical and emotional wellbeing
  • Any medical care
  • Their faith

The legal guardianship will end (in an official sense) when your child turns 18. Until then, the legal guardian will essentially take on your role as parent. So, it’s important to choose wisely!

 

What happens if you don’t make a will for guardianship of a child?

What happens if you and your child’s other parent both die without appointing a guardian in a will? If you don’t leave instructions, the courts can choose a legal guardian. They will likely choose someone responsible, but they might not pick the same person you would.

 

How to make someone a legal guardian

You can appoint a legal guardian for your child by making a new will, or by making a small alteration to your existing will. Here are a few tips:

  • Ask the chosen guardian for permission first! It’s important the person you appoint is willing and genuinely ready to take on legal guardianship for a child.
  • You can appoint more than one guardian. Make sure they will co-operate with each other, though.
  • It’s a good idea to have a back-up guardian. Just in case your first choice can’t step in when the time comes.
  • Tell them how to do a great job. You can leave instructions for the guardian you’re appointing using something called a ‘letter of wishes’. This is a more informal document that you can keep with your will to explain your wishes in more detail. For example, you might explain which schools you’d like your child to go to, or talk about any allergies the guardian needs to know about. Or you can include your child’s favourite foods, or the lyrics to their bedtime song. It’s pretty flexible.
  • You can appoint a guardian using Beyond. Our simple online will service makes writing your will quick and easy. In just 10 minutes, you can appoint guardians, pick executors, and decide how to divide your estate – all from the comfort of home.

 

How to choose a legal guardian

So, what makes someone a good choice for legal guardian? Here are a few things to think about before naming a legal guardian in your will:

  1. Choose someone who’s about your age, and healthy. Kids can be a lot of work, even (or especially) teenagers. Pick someone who will have the energy to look after your little ones.
  2. Think about whether they’ll have the funds. You can use your will to leave your child’s legal guardian some money in trust to help with the care of your child. However, it’s still important to choose someone who is already capable of financially supporting them. This will help if the money you’ve left runs out or needs to be used for something unexpected.
  3. Will they parent your way? You might like to choose a legal guardian who has the same approach as you when it comes to key parenting issues like education, hobbies, medical care, religion and discipline.
  4. Bereaved children often benefit from stability. So, if you can, choose someone who lives not too far from you. That way, even if you die, your child can stay at the same school, see the same friends and relatives and take part in the same after-school activities.
  5. Where will your child fit in the family? It’s a good idea to choose a legal guardian who has some experience with kids – perhaps someone who has children of their own. At the same time, you might want to avoid appointing a legal guardian who already has a large family. If the person you’ve chosen has a partner, think about whether they are likely to be a good fit for your child as well.
  6. Being a legal guardian isn’t a job: it’s parenting. The most important thing – more important than any of the points above – is to choose someone who will be a good, caring, and responsible parent.

 

Ready to appoint a legal guardian?

Naming a legal guardian for your child, or even a pet, is easy with Beyond’s affordable online will service. In just 10 minutes, you can make a legally valid will from the comfort of your own home. Leave gifts, appoint guardians and choose an executor with practically no effort – and save hundreds in solicitor’s fees. Find out more here.

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